Over 130 business people attended a forum in Newcastle last week to hear from the Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner (SBC), Robyn Hobbs OAM on ways businesses can be supported in view of reported downturns occurring whilst the revitalisation program proceeds in the Newcastle City Centre.
Michael Cassel, Chief Executive Officer of Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) also provided an update on the progress of the light rail program.
Hunter Business Chamber CEO, Bob Hawes said there were clear messages from businesses about loss of patronage despite efforts being made to ensure access and parking are available whilst the revitalisation works are in progress.
“There was a lot of emotion in the room and it is clear from the turn out, a high level of interest from business is understanding how they can be supported and attract patronage back to the city,” Bob said.
“The Office of the SBC offered a raft of support and assistance which will supplement locally-based support currently available through The Business Centre – Newcastle, Newcastle Now, the Hunter Business Chamber and also measures in place through the HDC revitalisation program.”
Executive Manager of Newcastle Now, Michael Neilson said there were a number of constructive measures to come out of the forum that Newcastle Now and the Hunter Business Chamber will be pursuing.
“This includes establishing a working group made up of city centre businesses to further interrogate how best to address business concerns,” Michael said.
“We will also take up Robyn Hobbs’ offer to maintain ongoing direct contact with the Office of the SBC.
“It is also going to be necessary to de-brief to a range of stakeholders including Newcastle City Council.”
During the forum The Office of the SBC undertook to waive the fees usually charged for part of the three stage mediation process they conduct. This is a significant assistance for businesses that elect to use this service.
The Office of the SBC has also agreed to assist the Chamber and Newcastle Now with further enquiries on other options that could support business.